The 51st (Highland) Division in the Great War

Engine of Destruction

By Colin Campbell

Pen & Sword, 2018

The 51st (Highland) Division, a Territorial Division, saw active service on the western front from 1915 and was involved in many of the major battles of the war, gaining a reputation as an effective fighting force.

Although a divisional history was published after the war, Campbell’s work provides a welcome update to the wartime activities of the division, utilising the variety of sources now available and in particular drawing on a large number of personal accounts.

The book naturally follows a chronological approach. From the division’s first experiences of trench warfare in 1915, the book examines the attacks on High Wood and Beaumont Hamel during the Somme campaign; Arras and Rouex, Ypres, and Cambrai in 1917; and the German Spring Offensive and advance to victory in 1918.

With the benefit of the time that has elapsed and the additional sources now available, Campbell provides more analysis about the successes, failures, and legacy of the division, that were naturally absent from the 1921 history.

The difficulty with a divisional history is of course giving all of the composite units enough attention, and my only gripe is that the 1/7th Black Watch, my Great Grandfather’s battalion, does not get much page space.

Notes, maps, and illustrations are plentiful, making this a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the 51st Division during the war.

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The 51st (Highland) Division in the Great War: An Engine of Destruction